Preventing extinctions

Hanneline Smit-Robinson focused on the editing of various draft manuscripts, reports and proposals. She also participated in Skype meetings, including with Sam Ralston, Robin Colyn and Megan Murgatroyd as well as a meeting of the SESYNC team on vulture conservation. Robin spent the majority of the week working on two scientific manuscripts related to the White-winged Flufftail project. One of these manuscripts was finalised and submitted for co-author review. These two articles synthesis ground breaking results related to the breeding and migratory status, vocalisations and breeding density of this Critically Endangered species. A scientific manuscript assessing the extinction risk and historical contraction in distribution of the Vulnerable Southern Bald Ibis was amended this week and submitted for peer review at an appropriate scientific journal. Similarly, a further review was completed on the scientific article promoting the connectivity and conservation of forest specialist avian species in South Africa, which was also submitted for peer review at an appropriate scientific journal. Melissa Whitecross worked on the Black Stork status manuscript and a short communication on the breeding behaviour of White-winged Flufftails in Ethiopia, both of which will be submitted for publication in a special issue of Ostrich on waterbirds. Melissa presented a talk on the Bird of the Year, the Secretarybird, to East Rand Bird Club. Linda van den Heever conducted assessments on properties falling under the Zululand IBA to determine their suitability to qualify as Vulture Safe Zones and what mitigation measures, if any, will be needed. The assessments focused mainly on the southern parts of the IBA, and included Manyoni Private Game Reserve, the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy and Kube Yini Private Game Reserve.

Renewable energy

Much of Sam Ralston-Paton’s week was taken up responding to the great news that BirdLife South Africa’s appeal against the Iyanda Wind Farm in the Eastern Cape was upheld. She study the decision and applicable legislation to understand the likely next steps in the process and revisited the documentation to remind herself of the details of the project. She drafted a media statement, responded to media queries and was interviewed on Cape Talk radio. Sam also had a Skype meeting with Alex Ngari (BirdLife International Flyways Programme Manager for Africa) to discuss the BirdLife Africa Energy Forum and together they finalised a survey that will help guide the Forum’s agenda.



Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel submitted an information paper to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels meeting of parties. The paper discusses the risk to seabirds when demersal longlines use gear with floats. Over the weekend she gave a talk entitled 'Of mice and (fisher)men' to the West Coast Bird Club, the talk was well received and she was told she had inspired a couple of the members to join BirdLife South Africa. Reason Nyengera is currently on paternity leave in Zimbabwe and seeing his new born daughter for the first time. He will be back in the office in early May.

Coastal Seabirds

Christina Hagen was in De Hoop Nature Reserve on Monday and Tuesday to check up on the penguin colony site and change some settings on the remote monitoring cameras. She also met with the reserve managers and marine rangers who are assisting with the project. Christina spent the rest of the week preparing for the end of the 505050 campaign, as Dave Chamberlain will be running the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon on Saturday, the 50th time he has run the route in as many days. Please support him with a donation to our African Penguin conservation work on www.505050.org. Andrew de Blocq is on leave until early May.

Common Oceans

Nini van der Merwe worked with colleagues from the RSPB and the Food and Agriculture Organisation to finalise a report on the recent Global Seabird Bycatch assessment workshop.

Gough Island Restoration Project

Nini participated in two Skype calls with the Gough Restoration Project team to finalise plans for meetings and warehouse inspections in May



Landscape Analysis & Project Development

Dale Wright finalised the contents for a concept note for a new community conservation project planned for the Zululand IBA in KwaZulu-Natal. He also worked on a companion project concept note for the Department of Environmental Affairs to support a different component of the same project. The community engagement project integrates a number of BirdLife South Africa’s initiatives in northern KwaZulu-Natal and will include training and employment of intern environmental monitors, support and training for bird guides and the development of wildlife economy opportunities to support job creation in the area.

Estuary IBA Conservation Project

On Monday and Tuesday, Giselle Murison had several Skype meetings and calls with riparian landowners at the Klein River estuary to discuss various issues around the proposed Nature Reserve declarations for their properties. On Thursday, she met with riparian farmers at the Berg River estuary who are looking to declare a Protected Environment (PE) at their properties. The declaration process was discussed in more detail, as well as the visions for both the PE and the constituent properties, including issues to be addressed in the Management Plan for the PE. Giselle also finalised a presentation on the results of the biodiversity site assessments that were undertaken at the Berg River estuary for the meeting of the Berg River estuary riparian farmers. 

Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship

Dale Wright drafted and submitted the final project report for the Table Mountain Fund (TMF) project entitled ‘Enhancing NGO involvement in protected area expansion’. This two-and-a-half-year project has produced a series of reports aiming to support the sector. These included, an investigation of the challenges and opportunities for biodiversity stewardship, an investigation and workshop focused on improving understanding of the Conservation Servitudes mechanism, and a report and one-page information sheet focused on the alternative area-based conservation mechanisms in South Africa. TMF approved the final project report, satisfied with the outcomes and the national and international exposure which the project has received.

South African Key Biodiversity Areas

Daniel Marnewick facilitated a key meeting between the South African team undertaking the Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) review and members of the global KBA Technical Working Group. This was a very useful meeting aimed at ensuring that the South African KBA review is in line with global standards and best-practice, and for the South African experience to provide valuable lessons learnt to the relatively new KBA Guideline and other national reviews.

Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas

An important journal paper was published this week in Science, on which Daniel Marnewick is a co-author. The paper identifies four main problems with the current global protected area target that led to perverse outcomes and limited conservation progress. The authors propose a target for site-based conservation beyond 2020 aimed at overcoming them.


Awareness for IBA & KBA Conservation

Hiral Naik continued with logistical planning for the KBA Committee Meeting taking place in Cape Town in September 2019.

Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures

Daniel Marnewick wrote various proposals this week, including funding proposals for Zululand, and conference abstracts for the Biodiversity Planning Forum and the African Protected Areas Conference.




Candice Stevens has been in Maputo, Mozambique, attending the African Regional BIOFIN Workshop hosted by the United Nations Development Programme. Candice provided fiscal readiness training to 11 different African countries.


This week Jonathan Booth submitted comments in response to two environmental authorization applications – namely a housing estate near Kamfers Dam in Kimberley and a diamond mine near the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment. He also reviewed and commented on the first draft of the Best Practice Guidelines for Species Impact Assessments, which BirdLife South Africa is producing in conjunction with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and a subcontracted party.

Tax Extension

Ellane van Wyk met with Western Cape Tax Sites # 3, 4, 5 and 8 private and communal landowners, together with extension staff from Cape Nature in Oudsthoorn. All of the sites expressed their interest and willingness to access the tax benefit. Landowner Information Tables have been provided to these private and communal landowners and Engagement Letters will follow.



General Centre operations: The Wakkerstroom Centre had a busy week.  Daphne Pyott has been finalising bookings and guides for the Easter Weekend whilst Kristi Garland and Lucky Ngwenya have been attending to various maintenance issues. On Tuesday afternoon/evening, Kristi attended two meetings regarding upcoming events – the 25 May Discover Wakkerstroom Treasure Trail and the Wakkerstroom Bird Club 11-13 October Birding Bonanza.    Kristi also met with Lucky in preparation for his talk on growing up in Wakkerstroom for the Wakkerstroom Tourism Association’s history talks on Monday 22 April. 

Guiding operations: Lucky’s reports the following sightings from the past week: Blue Korhaan, White Stork and Secretarybird on the Amersfoort Road – a quiet week on the sightings side.     

Environmental Education: Kristi attended the Clay Edu-Centre Junior Bird Club on Thursday afternoon, together with Carol Preston from the Litter Lion’s project.  Here we focussed on completing drawings of vegetation in the area.  It was surprising to see how many of the learners drew vegetable gardens in their interpretations of local vegetation.   Kristi also worked on next week’s programmes with all the junior clubs – a further investigation into local plants. 

Working on Fire Team:  The team completed two awareness programmes this week at Uthaka Secondary and a door-to-door session.  



Mark Anderson, Fanie du Plessis and Daniel Marnewick met with Deloitte’s Jonathan Sykes and Mark Arnold to discuss fundasing opportunities. Mark and Emma Askes met with events staff at Nedbank to discuss the forthcoming AGM. The monthly Marketing Committee meeting was held. Mark met with Stan Madden on Saturday to discuss Marievale Nature Reserve conservation issues.